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updated: 5/28/2014 10:20 PM

Selfless play helps Vernon Hills advance

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By Bill Pemstein
Daily Herald Correspondent

Coaches love a player like Dylan DeBoer. That's because the nearly 6-foot-3 outside hitter for Vernon Hills is strictly playing for the sake of the team.

"It's whatever we need him for,'' said Vernon Hills coach Chris Curry. "Sometimes we hardly notice him."

That wasn't the case on Wednesday night in Mundelein.

On tap was the regional final matchup at Carmel. For the fourth time this season, the Cougars met up with Lake Zurich.

And it was DeBoer's night to stand up and be noticed. His 10 kills led all players. And for the fourth time this season, the Cougars (28-9) beat the best Bears team since volleyball came to that school.

Vernon Hills' next stop is the Highland Park sectional on Friday night. Vernon Hills prevailed 25-18, 25-20 over the Bears.

"Each time we played Lake Zurich, we brought out the energy,'' DeBoer said. "This is a true team sport. It's my role to support the guys and make sure everyone's happy."

Clearly, after Vernon Hills beat Lake Zurich to claim the conference crown last week, the Bears (24-12) worked on their blocking at the net. But even with a Bears size advantage, the shorter Cougars still dominated the play at the net.

"They are just a well-rounded team,'' said Lake Zurich coach Lesly Ravenscraft. "They are very well coached and have been playing together for a long time."

The two sets were similar in nature. Even though the Bears got spirited play from Matt Carmody (4 kills) and Nate Amos (5 kills), the overall balance of the Vernon Hills attack was too much on this night. On the final outing of Lake Zurich, even 5-foot-9 Michael Savio got a chance to hit the ball at the net. He added 4 kills.

"Vernon Hills is a very talented team,'' Savio said. "They have a lot of experience. They have always been a dominant program."

Lake Zurich struggled to get much momentum going. And Vernon Hills took advantage of that. With DeBoer serving in set two, this junior registered an ace and then scored on two Lake Zurich errors to open a 9-6 lead.

Curry noted that all four matches with Lake Zurich were different.

"Every match, we had we both had different lineups,'' Curry said. "And familiarity can be dangerous. We played great defense tonight."

Of course it also helped to have the steady setting of senior Ryan Opitz. He notched 26 assists in the two quick sets.

"Ryan did a great job tonight,'' Curry said.

Opitz used the services of Mike Heinz (7 kills) and Lem Tucker (5 kills). The senior also contributed 3 blocks.

"I know what my hitters like,'' Opitz said. "And it helped that we came out with a lot of energy."

As good as the Cougars were on this winning night, the Bears can feel good about the year they had.

"We had been playing together for such a long time,'' Savio said. "And we seemed to bring the confidence factor along with the experience. We were division champs and we made it to the regional title match."

By any measure, the Bears had their best season ever.

"For me it was a rollercoaster,'' Savio said. "It had a lot of ups and downs. But this year was the greatest possible. The guys really came together."

Another senior, setter LZ's Pat Bush, had 15 assists.

"We hope to continue this,'' Ravenscraft said. "Those seniors left something special behind."

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